Promoting Team Diversity: Interview with Nick Pearce
Diversity, whether you love or hate the debate, one thing that can’t be ignored is the fact that the gaps that once existed between cultures, genders, ethnicities and religions are closing. In the additive and advanced manufacturing industries, and especially for a specialized recruitment agency like us, we see and interact with a myriad of AM professionals on a daily basis. We see that the topic of diversity is not only relevant to the now, but also is being advocated for by big names in the industry, such as EOS.
Over the years, Alexander Daniels Global has been successful in building its own team of diverse professionals to work on your recruitment projects and next career moves. But what is most interesting about the team at AD Global is that Nick Pearce, Founder & Director, has been successful in establishing such a diverse team, organically.
Since EOS are currently advocating for the promotion of diversity in the industry with their #EOSdiversity campaign, we thought we would share a little bit about our take on hiring diverse teams and give you some insight into what you should consider when looking to diversify your team.
You can also check out our Best Practice Guide for Hiring Diverse Teams.
Can you summarise your background in additive and how you started your journey as a business owner of a specialized recruitment agency?
Those are two quite different stories. I founded my first recruitment company with my business partner Ian, 11 years ago. We previously worked together in another recruitment company, and out of the last financial crisis that we found ourselves in, I felt that it was time to set something up on my own instead of working for a big corporate.
I’ve always been quite an entrepreneurial guy, always had lots of ideas, so I decided to take the plunge back in 2010 and founded what was then ‘Alexander Daniels’ as a financial recruitment company. We’ve grown that into a multi-divisional business with various different divisions in Energy, Offshore, Finance and now Additive Manufacturing.
I came to Additive Manufacturing because I saw a story in the BBC of a guy who severely disfigured his face after a motorbike accident. They used 3D Printing to create moulds for the surgeons to practise, and then they 3D printed and implanted cheek bones. I was blown away! I thought ‘this technology is really changing people’s lives.’
We had an intern that was working for us at the time, who was in the UK to improve his English from Barcelona in Spain. I saw a lot of potential in him as an individual, so we started researching the additive manufacturing industry, talked to lots of companies and found out the challenges they faced in terms of availability of materials, cost, speed, repeatability, all the technical challenges. But overriding that, was a lack of talent and skills in the industry.
So, within those 9 months that we had been researching the industry, we had acquired many clients, and that was the catalyst for setting up a recruitment business that specialized exclusively in additive manufacturing. We made it our mission to enable the industrial revolution in additive manufacturing through talent, based on the belief that it would change people’s lives. And that’s how we got started in the industry.
Did you always have in mind that it would be a global organisation?
Given that Juan Miguel, who was from Barcelona, went back to Barcelona. He was one of the first people in the team, him and I, it was inevitable that we wouldn’t just be based in the UK. The industry is not a local industry, and if you think about the actual size of the additive manufacturing industry in comparison to traditional manufacturing, it’s very, very small. There are industrial companies out there that are bigger than the additive industry as a whole.
So, in order for us to develop a successful business, we needed to serve the global manufacturing market. And while we could do that from a singular base in the UK, I always felt it would be better if we had a more international, diverse team of people, capable of serving different customers, in different countries where there are different cultures. That was certainly in my mind when we were approaching how we grew the business.
What were some of the challenges that you expected to face after taking the business global? How did you plan to overcome them?
I think in the first instance, there can be communication and culture differences. Understanding how people work and the speed at which they work. The UK recruitment market is quite mature, recruiters that are experienced in the industry work in a certain way, compared to those in Spain or even in the US.
They way we overcame that challenge initially was that we came up with a set of values for the business that guided the way we operated as a team internally and externally with clients. This was based on passion and drive and a desire to make an impact with additive manufacturing. And that overcame a lot of it.
Communication was important, so weekly meetings utilising technology like Microsoft Teams has always meant that we stayed connected even though we are remote. Certainly, within Europe when we had people working in different offices, we’d get together in person at least once a quarter. We did 2-day getaways. The first day was always business focussed, and the second day was always about an experience. We have done loads of different activities in different cities around Europe to build that culture and cohesive unit. The pandemic last year obviously stopped all of that, but it’s something that we would look to get back to in future.
Part of expanding a business, is rooted in expanding the team. How did you approach recruiting for your own team when they would be based overseas?
The first external hire we made in Barcelona, was Edgar. We approached that like we were recruiting a co-founder. We wanted someone with experience in recruitment that was entrepreneurial, that wanted to join a start-up in an industry that was growing very fast. We adopted a traditional recruitment approach. We advertised the job, did some headhunting and narrowed it down to a shortlist of people. But Edgar was the standout candidate for us, and we hired him.
In the UK it was a little bit different. Someone in the extended network within the wider business, Loxley, joined us as he was known to somebody who worked with us. Spending some time with him, I understood that he had experience in working with advanced technology recruitment and was very technology savvy. Given the opportunity to move into additive manufacturing was something that really excited him. Those were the initial hires that we made into the business, and they came to us in very different ways.
What’s interesting is how we got Jen in the US. Jen was a client of ours, a global HR Manager for a major 3D Printing manufacturer, and we had recruited for her in Europe and Asia. After leaving, she had plans to do her own consulting for a bit and I offered her the chance to set up our US office and she said, “Let’s give it a go”.
It was much the same when we hired Iulia, she was a client of ours. When she told me she was leaving the company she had been working for, she expressed a desire to stay in the industry as she’s very passionate about 3D printing. I said to her, ‘How do you fancy setting up an office in Germany for us?’. And she did!
Those people have come to us when the timing was right for them and for us, and we took the opportunity when it presented itself.
You have been very adept at recognizing opportunity and potential in the people you have brought into the team. What would your comment be on recognizing ‘potential’ when hiring diverse teams?
There’s a phrase, and I can’t remember where I heard it, but it’s very common,
“You should hire for attitude and train for skill”
and I’m a sucker for it. I see the potential in people, and I want to develop it. Perhaps this reflects slightly negatively on me as a manager, but I never hire people for specific roles, purely based on the idea that I have a square hole and I need to find a square peg for it. I’ve hired almost all the people into our business purely on the potential that I think they have.
Have they got passion (one of our values)? Have they got drive? And are they somebody who is going to come in and make an impact, regardless of whether they are a perfect fit based on what they’ve done in the past. If they’ve got those key building blocks, then I’m more than willing to take a risk on people. Now, it hasn’t always worked out. If it worked 100% of the time, we would now be sat here 6 years in with a team of 12 people, but we’re not. We are currently a team of 5 people.
One or two of the people that we’ve lost, we lost because that potential that I saw, didn’t materialise. You have to understand that you’re never going to get it 100% right with hiring 100% of the time. You are going to make mistakes. And sometimes people just won’t fit. Sometimes the performance isn’t there, sometimes maybe the cultural fit isn’t quite right, and it just doesn’t work out, or maybe a change of direction for somebody in terms of their career happens, which isn’t something that you can plan for.
As a manager and a leader, you are successful in recognizing the strengths of the individuals in your team and you tend to uplift the people in the team. Do you apply a conscious process or approach in fostering the strengths of your team, that allows them to flourish?
I don’t see myself as a very good manager, because I’m not organised, I generally dislike traditional management methodologies based on KPIs, performance, ‘Plan, Do, Review’ which is very structured. So, I would say my qualities as a manager or a leader, are probably a bit more instinctual. The way I treat people is as individuals.
My general philosophy is to give people autonomy and freedom. If you’re going to bring people in with potential, set them the goal and allow them to achieve it. Don’t tell them how to do it. Support them when they need it. Give them the opportunity to ask questions but don’t always give them the answers. Get them to think about the responses for themselves, allow them to make mistakes. Create a culture where it’s acceptable to make mistakes and where they are a part of learning and development. Understand that people will approach things in a different way.
I love the fact that we have a really diverse team. It works in the roles that the people are in, to have a diverse set of knowledge, experiences, and approaches. Someone in a client facing role will have very different skills and approaches compared with someone in a more digital, creative role. To manage them in the same way, just wouldn’t work. You have to be more flexible and adaptable and just give people autonomy.
As a manager and a director of a global business, what advice would you give to someone looking to build or grow a diverse team?
I don’t set out, when I’m hiring, with diversity in my mind. I don’t set out thinking “well, my next hire needs to be female because now we’ve got 3 males and 2 females in the business, and if I want to balance out the gender equality in the business 50/50, I need to hire a female”. I don’t think about that. Coming back to the point, instinctively, I’m trying to hire the best person. But it’s coded into me that “the best person could be anyone” – male or female, regardless of ethnic origin or background – that’s not something that I would ever see as part of a recruitment process. I’m just looking for that potential.
Going back to the start, coming full circle, an email that I received out of the blue, in slightly broken English, from a then 20-year-old Juan Miguel who was coming to the UK to learn English. So taken by this email, I felt compelled to call him to let him know that we didn’t help people find internships. But then, so taken by him on the phone, I invited him in to meet me. Then when I met him, I thought “I have to hire this guy!” That’s the magic.
And that’s the same with everyone in my team now. You just see the potential. And it’s almost counterintuitive to what we tell clients – we talk about structured approach and competency-based assessment, and all those things are important when trying to narrow down a long list of candidates. But ultimately, when you make that decision, it’s based on the person sat in front of you. Do you see the potential in that individual to really grow within the organisation and do they demonstrate the passion and the drive to take the opportunity that you’re going to give them, and be a success?
And it’s irrelevant to gender, origin or ethnic background. It’s just about that passion, drive and potential that you see in front of you.
Want to read more about hiring diverse teams? Take a look at our article on 3DPrint.com ‘Promoting diversity in additive manufacturing (and how to do it organically)’.
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